Asian America and the Nordic Revenge Saga

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (BAMC2021)
Title: Asian America and the Nordic Revenge Saga
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies and Theory
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Daniel McKay, Doshisha University, Japan


The theme of vengeance has an established if infrequent presence in the canon of Asian American literature. In my presentation, I shall argue that Swedish crime novelist Henning Mankell’s novel Kinesen (2008), translated and published under the English title The Man from Beijing, narrativizes vengeance in ways that provoke questions regarding the predominantly monolinguistic and US-centered canon formation of Asian American literature, on the one hand, and the interconnections of neoliberal market economics in mainland China with earlier formations of capitalism on the other hand. Mankell’s novel is unique in its successive depictions of labor conditions on the US transcontinental railroad and the disestablishment of the Communist welfare state in mainland China. I juxtapose the novel to scholarly works such as Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents (2015) and the Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger (2017) to argue that Mankell’s narrative shares with these scholarly texts a remit to destabilize conventional spatial and temporal frameworks of economic history. This aspect demands that one read the text not merely as a ‘globalized’ narrative that departs from the country-specific or region-specific settings common to much Scandinavian crime fiction, but as an intellectually destabilizing enquiry into the diffusion of capitalism in its neoliberal form.

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